How Falsified Birth Certificates Endanger Adoptees

An interesting article from the Washington Post caught my eye:

The State Department is denying passports to people born in Texas near the border with Mexico if they were delivered by midwives because of birth-certificate forgeries there for Mexican-born children dating to the 1960s, according to U.S. officials.

Adoptees are quite familiar with forgery of birth certificates, except in our case it’s done by the government, so it’s legal and they call it “amending.” When a closed adoption is finalized, the adoptee’s original birth certificate – containing their birth name and that of their birth parents – is sealed. An amended version is created in its place, renaming the adoptee and listing the adoptive parents “as if” having given birth. As I’ve mentioned, if adoptees follow the everyman procedures for obtaining birth certificates, the amended one is the one we get.

We already know that adoptees have difficulties with passports and other matters because of our lack of access to records. In this paranoid post-9/11 age, any of us who can’t solidly prove we were born in this country are at risk. Those of us who are domestic-born better not leave the U.S., because those amended birth certificates might be worthless. If you’re internationally adopted and there are glitches in your paperwork you could wind up deported, even if you’re a minor, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

This paragraph from the Post article strikes me as ominous:

It is not clear when U.S. officials began viewing midwife certificates with suspicion. State Department spokesman Cy Ferenchak confirmed the policy to The Brownsville Herald in Texas earlier this summer. The newspaper quoted him as saying, “Normally, a birth certificate is sufficient to prove citizenship. … But because of a history of fraudulently filed reports on the Southwest border, we don’t have much faith in the document.”

How much faith are they going to have in adoptees’ documents? Those of us whose records are sealed can’t prove a thing. The only documents we are likely to have are our amended birth certificates and, if we’re lucky, perhaps the final decree of adoption. That might be enough to get us by, but it might not, and there is little we can do about it. Adoptees in closed-records states have about as much access to bona fide records as a Fruit Loop has nutritional value.

The ACLU is all over the situation in Texas, which is why I continue to be puzzled by their failure to stand up for the rights of adult adoptees to access original birth certificates. With regard to opposing Illinois HB 4623, their representatives have told me their stance is based on medical privacy for the birth mother. Strange that they have not realized this is a common adoption myth, considering how much research exists to prove as much (like this, this, and this, for starters). Because adoptee birth certificates get amended when the adoption is finalized, NOT at surrender, how could amending the birth certificate promise a birth parent privacy? It doesn’t, of course. The privacy it protects is that of the agencies and the adoptive families, because every birth relative is obviously a stereotypical Stalker out to ruin adopters’ lives. As one of my commenters, a birth mother, noted, privacy was the punishment imposed, not the promise made.

I guess we’re not entitled to civil liberties if we make the poor choice to be adopted as infants. I shudder to think what happens if you’re an adoptee born by midwife in a border state dating to the 1960s – talk about persona non grata!


  1. Great blog, Triona!

    I have never understood the ACLU. Their being so blind and using the age old excuse that a birth mother’s privacy must be protected makes me question just how reliable they are in any matter.

    I have known adoptees to have problems with getting passports because of the amended birth certificate. Some don’t have a copy of the adoption decree. It can be a nightmare and definitely not something that should even occur. Adult adoptees should have a right to request and receive their OBC, no question about it. We have to educate IL legislators so it becomes an open state.

  2. Hi Triona,

    This is a MUST READ: